Thinking about dropping Dry January? Understanding the relationship between alcohol and hormones might help you keep going! January. The days are short, the temperature has plummeted and we’re all feeling the effects of our festive overindulging. We’re ready to start the new year how we mean to go on; fitter, healthier, and making wellbeing a priority.
January is the perfect time to drop bad habits after the festivities of December. So, it’s no wonder cutting down on alcohol is high on many people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions. Every year millions of people sign up for Dry January, vowing to stay off the booze for an entire month. According to Alcohol Change, 4 million people took part in Dry January in 2020, a number that is sure to increase as the cost of living crisis deepens.
The benefits of going alcohol-free are well known; brighter skin, higher energy levels, and more stable moods, just to name a few. But what about your hormones? Does quitting alcohol have an effect them?
Let’s take a look!
Alcohol and Hormones
Our hormones play an important part in keeping your mind and body healthy. They act as messengers, releasing the right amount of hormones at the right time, keeping the body functioning and coordinating correctly. But alcohol stops the glands that produce your hormones from working properly. This can, in turn, lead to a variety of health issues that affect the following.
Energy levels drop because of alcohol
As your body struggles to release the right amount of hormones, you might find that you become tired and lack energy. This is because alcohol affects the hormone that regulates glucose levels, which are responsible for keeping your blood sugar levels healthy. Long-term heavy drinkers may experience a glucose intolerance or find they suffer both dangerously low blood and dangerously high blood sugar levels.
Hormones help to maintain calcium levels in the body which is essential for strong, healthy bones. Too much alcohol can disrupt the production of those hormones, which can lead to bone deficiencies, such as osteoporosis, or reduce bone mass which can lead to fractures.
Estrogen is essential for healthy bones, but as we enter Menopause, levels begin to drop putting you at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Doing all you can to keep your bone density high and healthy is essential, and cutting back on alcohol will allow your hormones to do just that!
As well as affecting hormone production, alcohol can also increase your body’s Cortisol production. High levels of cortisol in the long term can have negative effects on your health including:
- Anxiety and depression
How do alcohol and its effect on hormones relate to Fertility?
Unsurprisingly, alcohol has a negative effect on our reproductive health. Heavy drinking affects your ovaries which can result in hormone deficiencies, fertility issues, and a lowered sex drive. Studies suggest that when you drink your body produces more Estrogen while your Progesterone levels start to fall.
Although your body needs Estrogen, there is evidence to suggest too much can increase your chances of getting breast cancer. Recent studies have shown that women who were heavy drinkers before Menopause had a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those who didn’t drink or who were moderate drinkers.
For menopausal women, it’s a slightly different story. Research suggests that some women develop alcohol intolerances as they approach Menopause. If, however, you don’t experience any adverse reactions to drinking, then a few drinks could be just what you need.
As we mentioned earlier, as you approach Menopause your body’s natural production of Estrogen begins to slow down, but alcohol can help stimulate this process. Estrogen has a variety of health benefits including supporting your immune system, increasing bone density, assisting with cardiovascular health, and slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s.
However, if you’re having hormone replacement therapy, HRT, during Menopause it’s important to moderate how much you’re drinking as, again, too much Estrogen can increase the chances of getting breast cancer.
Just as alcohol increases your estrogen production, it also lowers your Testosterone level. In women Testosterone is responsible for:
- Healthy bones
- Healthy breasts
- Sex drive
- Menstrual and vaginal health
When your Testosterone levels become low you can feel tired, worn out and exhausted, with no motivation to do anything. This can be particularly damaging to your mental health, when you consider that alcohol is a depressant and will only make these feelings stronger. If you’re predisposed to mental health issues, then quitting alcohol completely is a good idea.
Alcohol, You and Your Hormones
Cutting down or completely quitting alcohol has a variety of long-term health benefits both on your mental and physical wellbeing. When your body isn’t flooded with alcohol or battling the effects of a hangover, your hormones are able to work correctly: regulating your body and keeping everything working as it should.
While it’s okay to enjoy the odd drink, excessive drinking creates far-reaching, long-term damage, which is why it’s always important to stick to the guidelines when it comes to alcohol consumption. And that means no more than 14 units a week and spreading them over the course of seven days.
Dry January is a great way to start when it comes to exploring your relationship with alcohol. But try and incorporate mindful drinking throughout the rest of the year; your body, especially your hormones, will thank you for it!
Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.